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Parents' management of alcohol in the context of discourses of 'competent' parenting: A qualitative analysis

journal contribution
posted on 2022-05-12, 04:25 authored by Megan CookMegan Cook, Amy Pennay, Sarah MacLean, Robyn DwyerRobyn Dwyer, Janette Mugavin, Sarah Callinan
How parents manage potential tensions between normative discourses of 'competent parenting' and their desires to consume alcohol has received little attention. In this article, we explore the elements that encourage or constrain parents' drinking and investigate how parents consider and manage their alcohol use in the context of multiple social roles with sometimes conflicting demands and expectations around 'competent parenting'. Our analysis draws on 30 semi-structured interviews with Australian parents, conducted as part of a broader project which aimed to explore how home drinking is integrated into everyday life. While parents' accounts of drinking alcohol highlighted effects such as embodied experiences of relaxation and facilitating shared adult moments, many participants described drinking less than they otherwise would if their children were not present. Participants discussed various social roles and routines which constrained consumption, with drinking bounded by responsibility. As such, drinking emerged as something needing to be actively negotiated, particularly in light of discourses that frame expectations of what constitutes 'competent parenting'. When considering parents' alcohol consumption in the future, we argue that it is important to destigmatise their consumption by acknowledging the importance of adults' pleasure and wellbeing, alongside children's needs for safety and modelling of safer alcohol consumption.


Australian Research Council, Grant/Award Number: DE180100016, DE190101074, Discovery Project DP2000003316; Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship Open access publishing facilitated by La Trobe University, as part of the Wiley - La Trobe University agreement via the Council of Australian University Librarians.


Publication Date



Sociology of Health & Illness






18p. (p.1009-1026)





Rights Statement

© 2022 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for SHIL (SHIL).. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.